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What is an in-text citation in APA Style?

What information needs to be provided within an in-text citation? What is the difference between a citation and a reference?
Last Updated: Apr 28, 2016  |  3815 Views

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An in-text citation provides sourcing information about quoted or paraphrased text. The purpose of the in-text citation is to indicate that the quoted or paraphrased information originated with someone else and to give your reader sufficient information that they can then find the corresponding reference in your reference list. Citations appear in the main text and provide specific information about the quoted or paraphrased information; references appear in the reference list at the end of the work and provide general information about the resource so that the reader can locate the resource used by the author. Each instance of information taken from another source must be cited; in other words, an entire paragraph of information cannot be cited with one citation at the end of the paragraph. Rather, each individual instance of information from another source must be cited, with the citation appearing immediately after the quoted or paraphrased text. For example, according to the American Psychological Association (2010), “references in APA publications are cited in text with an author-date citation system” (p. 174). Alternatively, the same text could be presented as “references in APA publications are cited in text with an author-date citation system and are listed alphabetically in the text” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 174).

The standard format for a citation to quoted text is (author last name/corporate author, year of publication/copyright, location reference). For a printed resource or a document in PDF format, the location reference will be a page number. For electronic resources that are not paginated, use a paragraph number (e.g. para. 4) or “if the document includes headings and neither paragraph nor page numbers are visible, cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following it” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 172). For example: (Government of Canada, 1968, p. 5), (Brown, 2008, para. 7), or (Jones, 2006, "Recommendations", para. 4). If your quotation breaks over two pages, you can provide a page range in the citation: (Government of Canada, 1968, pp. 5-6). For more information, please see page 177 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010) for a chart that compares the basic citation styles, as well as the information provided below. For information on how to create a citation when source information is missing, please see "Writing In-Text Citations in APA Style" from the APA Style Blog. See "Where should an in-text citation be placed?" for more information. For information on citing paraphrased information, please see "What is paraphrasing?".

When presenting information in a paragraph, you may find that you’re citing repeatedly from the same resource. While APA style doesn’t use ibid., you can use a shortened citation format after the first full citation. Please visit "I'm quoting/paraphrasing repeatedly from the same author in a paragraph. Can I put one citation at the end of the paragraph (APA)?" for information and examples.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

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